Schizophrenia is a severe, debilitating and chronic brain disorder often affecting young adults below the age of forty. The disease has a major impact on sufferers as it affects the cognitive function of the individuals concerned.
As a result, it has been reported that 75 per cent of sufferers cannot maintain a steady job and high suicide rates are a feature of this disease.
In the USA, 1 per cent of the population is affected with only 20 per cent of these patients able to lead a normal life as a result of therapy.
The market for drugs to treat schizophrenia itself is estimated to be worth $14bn (€11.8bn).
Genophrenix has been formed to capitalise on the discovery of specific proteins that are involved with a key biochemical pathway implicated in a range of neuropsychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia.
The initial discovery of these new proteins was the result of work carried out by Jamal Nasir, of the University of Sheffield Medical School. Biofusion owns a 60 per cent shareholding in the company.
"Genophrenix is the tenth company in our portfolio. Although this is an early stage company, Genophrenix believes that by targeting specific proteins that are part of the dopamine signalling pathway, implicated in schizophrenia," said David Baynes, CEO of Biofusion.
"This can help pharmaceutical companies to meet the need for more efficacious, less harmful therapeutic medicines for this market."
The Company intends to consolidate existing findings in the field of schizophrenia in order to add value to the intellectual property that it has already generated.
In addition, Genophrenix will also develop packages of novel proprietary therapeutic targets and compounds, which can be licensed to major global pharmaceutical companies focused on developing new treatments for schizophrenia.
The genetic basis of schizophrenia is still poorly understood and consequently the understanding of the mode of action of currently prescribed drugs for schizophrenia is far from complete.
As a result many of the drugs, which are currently used to treat schizophrenia, cause unwanted and potentially severe side effects and lack acceptable efficacy. These limitations often lead to patients discontinuing therapy, clearly a very unsatisfactory outcome.
It is clear that a more precise understanding of the causes of schizophrenia are required if new improved therapeutics, that are clearly needed to treat this disease, are to be developed.
There are a number of different antipsychotic drugs available for the treatment. They may be roughly categorised into two groups: conventional and atypical.
The conventional antipsychotic drugs include haloperidole (Haldol), zuclopenthioxol (Cisordinol), perphenazin (Trilafon), alimemazin (Theralen) and chlorpromazine (Hibernal). These drugs are effective against the symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations and formal thought disturbances.
They are effective against relapses of psychosis. At high doses, side effects are common. These include tremors, muscle stiffness and unintended movements, as well as unrest and inability to be still.
Most of the atypical antipsychotic drugs have appeared in the later years. This group include risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapin (Zyprexa), clozapin (Leponex) and Zeldox.
The drugs in this group are just as effective against psychosis but the risk of developing the extrapyramidal side effects is probably smaller.
There is also scientific evidence pointing to a profitable effect of these drugs on negative symptoms and improved cognitive function.